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some kind of heavenwood

Drew's Cool Golf Revue
some kind of heavenwood
By Drew Millard • Issue #4 • View online
golf movies, vol. i: some kind of heaven.

A few years ago I lived in the guest house of a very nice woman named Sharon, and the one time I lived there when it snowed like a foot, I volunteered to shovel out her driveway only to spend like two hours getting nowhere. The reason for this is that Sharon had gone to her shed and returned with a snow shovel and a regular shovel, and for reasons I assume made sense at the time I opted to use the non-snow shovel only to discover that I was making things much harder on myself than they needed to be. Maybe I thought that I needed to dig holes in the snow before I could push it around with the snow shovel or something? Who knows, man. Eventually I figured out what I was doing enough that I could get the driveway clear, and in the process learned a very important lesson about choosing the right tools for the job. 
Anyway, I got super excited last week because my weather app kept telling me that it was going to snow a bunch in Durham, but then when it was time for the snow to start the temperature would get to like 34 degrees. And so unlike seemingly everywhere else in America, we spent the past few days with a bunch of rain instead of being blizzarded upon like seemingly the rest of America.
In the official weather rankings, snow is better than rain. It’s novel when it snows, plus you can play in it and indulge in all the fun pre-snow rituals like buying toilet paper for no reason and trying to figure out which pair of pants you own have some combination of waterproofness and warmth. Meanwhile, I think that my dog got an ear infection from running around in the rain last month, which makes rain bad. Since it started raining like last Thursday and didn’t stop until 6 a.m. this morning, I haven’t been able to play golf, so I did the thing I always do when I haven’t been able to play golf, which is go to Play It Again Sports and buy a random used golf club for $15 that I’ll use like twice and then sell to Hillandale for store credit. This time it was a Callaway seven-wood from 15 years ago, which I bought because I have room in my bag for an extra club and who knows, maybe that extra club will be this old seven-wood. Once it’s dry out and I can play again, I will report back on how it performs, or maybe I’ll forget to and never bring it up again. Such is the magic of newsletters.
The fun thing about Callaway is that they have special silly names for some of their clubs, specifically their seven-woods, which they call “Heavenwoods,” and 11-woods, which they call the “Ely Would.” There’s not really any reason that they do this, other than maybe as a way to take the stigma out of using a seven- or 11-wood (*grumble grumble real golfers can hit a three-iron peas and carrots peas and carrots*), but I’m glad they did, because I am now going to tell you about the movie Some Kind of Heaven. I watched it over the weekend and loved it, and it vaguely involved golf so I decided to write about it.
If you haven’t heard of it, Some Kind of Heaven is the debut full-length documentary from the filmmaker Lance Oppenheim, who’s like 25 and so talented that it makes me want to throw up. He and his team spent several months living and filming in The Villages, the gigantic retirement community in Florida whose pitch is that everything there is perfect and no one who lives there is sad. Except everything there is not perfect, and there are lots of people there who are sad, and in fact they are sad in the exact same ways that you and I are sad, except it’s different because they’re older and living in this absolutely bananas place that aggressively pushes activities and social clubs and luxury golf cart ownership upon everyone within its census-designated bounds. (Full Disclosure: I once played poker with David Bolen, the film’s cinematographer, over Zoom, and am currently in a group chat with his brother. However, I only learned that David had worked on the film because I liked it so much that I decided to check the credits to see who’d done the cinematography.)
Some Kind of Heaven follows three storylines. One involves Barbara, a woman who moved to The Villages with her husband, who was way more into the idea of living there than she ever was. Sadly, he has since died, and Barbara’s kind of trapped there. Unlike many of her peers, she has to hold down a job in order to afford to live, which makes her feel alienated from her peers yet aching for connection. There’s also Dennis, an 81-year-old man who’s broke, living in his van, and has come to The Villages with the explicit intent of finding a rich girlfriend. His cool-guy hat and inability to hide his intentions mildly amuses the women of The Villages but mainly just annoys them, and it’s hard to say that his heart is in the right place as much as he’s still trying to figure out what he wants and that this makes him deeply human. He’s also sort of a fugitive from justice, a fact that Some Kind of Heaven just sort of casually throws out there but doesn’t really dwell on, which is perfect. 
And then we have Anne and Reggie, a couple from Tennessee who deserve their own paragraph for reasons you’ll soon understand. It’s implied that this friendly-seeming couple has never really had a great marriage and moved to The Villages because there were enough activities there that each of them could do their own thing, which is an issue due to the fact that while Anne’s thing is just “playing lots of sports,” Reggie has discovered his thing happens to be “doing a shitload of drugs.” We watch him pop pills, smoke weed out of a pipe that he sticks in his nose for some reason, do Tai Chi in a swimming pool during a thunderstorm, and wear a homemade flying-squirrel suit that looks like a more elaborate version of the getup that Tom Waits wore in the “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up” video. On his and Anne’s anniversary, he comes home, announces that he is dead, then tells her he’s going to go into their bedroom and jerk off. He is not a good husband, and his karmic punishment for being a bad husband is getting arrested for possession of marijuana and cocaine, then acting as his own lawyer in court and interrupting the judge so he can try out the classic “I have a special card that says I can have legal weed, and also I didn’t know I had the coke on me so it doesn’t count” defense. Reggie: extremely tight character to watch in a movie, but probably an exasperating character to have in your life. But he does play golf, which is important for the purposes of this newsletter.
the image is a little crooked because i took a picture of the screen with my phone
the image is a little crooked because i took a picture of the screen with my phone
Oppenheim and Bolen film Some Kind of Heaven as if it’s a non-fiction dream, as evidenced by a short, truly bizarre scene about a third of the way into the movie in which an entire room full of women introduce themselves, one by one, each cheerily announcing that their name is Elaine. The Elaines aren’t integral to the narrative, and in fact they’re never seen or heard from again. There are also fleeting glimpses of retiree cheer squads, retiree karate squads, retiree mini-golf dates, retirees doing sexually explicit 50’s-style dance moves, and all the retirees are deeply invested in the thing. This is just the type of shit that goes down at The Villages, and that’s that.
Despite being the most normal character, it’s Barbara’s story that’s the most visually interesting, because it’s through her eyes that the filmmakers can most effectively shatter the facade. She’s not outrageous or strange, she’s just lonely and having trouble finding meaning in a town that’s seemingly modeled after Back to the Future’s Hill Valley but with the clocktower replaced with a fountain that’s straight-up referred to as “The Fountain of Youth.” We watch her bored out of her mind at work, affecting cheer whenever she picks up the phone and has to interact with someone else. She goes shopping for a new golf cart, develops a crush on the salesman (he’s the leader of The Villages’ Parrothead Club and owns multiple industrial-strength margarita machines), and is charmed when they go play mini golf together and then drink margaritas while sitting on the open trunk of his car. She has a look in her eyes as if it’s all too good to be true, and then when she goes to a Parrothead party to drink margaritas with the hot golf cart salesman only for him to leave her hanging so he can dance with another woman, her fleeting glances tell us that the spell has worn off. It’s only when, towards the tail end of the movie, she explores her passion for acting, gaining the power to choose when and how to pretend, that she ever truly seems at ease. 
All in all, this is a fantastic movie which happens to contain multiple establishing shots of people playing golf. Watch it with your kids, watch it with your friends, tell your friends to bring their kids too, etc. I hereby award Some Kind of Heaven five used Callaway heavenwoods, one sleeve of Titleist ProV1 golf balls, and two lukewarm Michelob Ultras.
This has been Drew’s Cool Golf Revue. Please tell all the people you know who have a passing interest in golf to subscribe. If you recently made a profit off of your investment in meme stocks and/or Bitcoin, please consider signing up for a paid membership, which confers no benefits but who knows maybe it will in the future.
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